4 Things You Should Never, Ever Do With Your Money

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There are some things you should never do with your money. Each of the 4 I've identified enslave you to debt and keep you from growing your net worth.

I know using the word ‘don’t’ or ‘never’ these days isn’t the most popular way to frame an issue or decision, but sometimes the word ‘no’ just fits. There are some things in life that you probably shouldn’t do with your money because they aren’t the smartest use of it (buying in to a pyramid scheme) or don’t offer a very good potential return (lottery tickets); but there are a few things that you should never do. In my book, these four things are non-negotiable since doing any one of them can cause a lot of financial stress. Here they are:

#1 – Never Use 0% Deals for Furniture, TVs, Etc.


It is impossible to buy anything these days without being offered a credit card deal, a certain percentage off, or my favorite, “same as cash,” which is essentially a loan at 0%. While these deals might seem great in the store even if you have the cash on hand, you have to consider the downsides.

There is always fine print when it comes to loans, and if you miss a payment or are even a few days late, you could get some hefty fees added to your bill. When it comes to purchases like household items, furniture and electronics, skip the 0% deal. Instead, save money each month so you can buy what you want with the money you have on hand.

#2 – NEVER buy a new car


A recent study called the State of the Automotive Finance Study from Experian just came out showing that car buying or should I say car borrowing is more out of hand than ever. The average monthly payment is now up to $499 a month, and there’s been an increase in the amount of people taking out very long multi-year loans.

What this means is that people are buying way more car than they can afford, and they’re stretching out the payments for years to bring their monthly payment down to something they might be able to squeeze out of their budgets. These statistics are scary! 

Cars depreciate in value, and when you buy a brand new one, the joke is on you. Trust me, I know what it’s like to drive a car that’s constantly breaking and want a new one so badly. After two years straight of spending thousands of dollars fixing my SUV over and over again, I finally traded it in and bought a new SUV. By the time I handed it over, it was ten years old and had 255,000 miles on it. In other words, I drove it into the ground. Then, I bought a used SUV with 88,000 miles on it.

With my income and excellent credit, I’m sure someone would have loved to sell me a super expensive luxury car, and as great as that would be, I’m perfectly fine with my used 88,000 mile new-to-me car. Sometimes you just have to wait to get what you want. Delaying purchases and saving up ahead of time is definitely worth it. One day I’ll have the liquid income to buy a car of my choice, but for now higher mileage used cars are what I can afford.

#3 – Never Use Shopping as therapy


There are many different studies that show how our emotions affect our shopping habits, but many people can relate to the feeling of having a bad day and wanting to get a pick me up whether it’s an ice cream cone or a new outfit. For many people, shopping fills a void, but like many addictions, it’s just a temporary relief.

Shopping and buying things doesn’t fix your problems. It only serves as a distraction and a temporary band-aid for whatever you’re going through in life. So, when you’re feeling upset and you have an urge to shop, stop and think about your triggers. What are you feeling when you want to shop? What are some other activities you can do to take your mind off of your problems?

By identifying your triggers, you can learn how to stop this habit and save yourself a lot of money in the process.


#4 – NEVER Ignore your retirement savings


It’s easy to think that retirement is so far away, especially if you’re young or just starting out in your career. Many people put their retirement savings on hold because they “need” their money to live; or because they think they have time until they need to start saving; or that they can’t invest with little money. The best time to save for retirement is now. If you can save 10-15% of your income starting when you’re young, you can be a multi-millionaire by the time you’re ready to retire.

I know many people who have withdrawn their retirement savings early with penalties or invested in businesses of friends as their “retirement” only to lose everything. The best way to save for retirement is to consciously and consistently place a portion of your paycheck in diversified investments starting when you’re young and don’t buy in to the delusion that saving for retirement can wait.


So, what do you think? Are the four things above non-negotiable? What are some other things you believe you should never do with your money? Do you think it’s foolish to have a $500 car payment?

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Catherine Alford is the go to personal finance expert for parents who want to better their finances and take on a more active financial role in their families.


  • Josh says:

    It’s definitely easy to “reward” yourself with a little bit of shopping for some bit of imagined success. There’s nothing wrong with rewarding yourself, per se, but you must remember not to let it become an impulse that happens frequently. This is hard these days with Amazon Prime and online shopping in general!

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Syed says:

    Great point about not forgetting about retirement. People should be contributing ASAP to their retirement accounts so they can let compound interest do its thing. That’s a much better idea than starting to save late in your life since you will have to save a LOT of money just to give yourself a chance to have a decent post work life.

  • Michael says:

    Hi Cat,

    When I go to a furniture store, it is a planned purchase. It means I have dollars to pay for it.

    When I purchase, I ask what is the best discount you will give me if I pay cash for it today? Typical furniture store response has been – “We don’t have a discount for cash purchase, however, we have a 0% financing for 60 months.”

    Two years back, I bought the furniture at 0% financing, and set up automatic payments to go out of my bank account that would pay off the loan in exactly 60 months. I wouldn’t have paid a dime in interest. The cash that was intended for furniture is collecting interest.

    There are two things:

    (1) We need to be disciplined with our money.

    (2) On any money decision, you must factor in the Time Value of Money (TVM).


    • Cat says:

      Yeah I think if you’re super disciplined and do it this way it could work. The problem is that people are not!

      • colleen says:

        I’m the same way. Read the fine print and let them help you make money! Have bought furniture, appliances and even a HVAC system this way.

  • Gary @ Super Saving Tips says:

    I have to agree with Michael about the furniture. As long as you follow the rules and buy something you can afford, I don’t see anything wrong with holding on to your money and paying it out over time at 0% interest. I’ve done this before, and it has worked out well for me.

  • Mustard Seed Money says:

    I’m a big fan of always shopping around before buying something. I always check Craigslist to see if I can buy something used before buying something new online.

    Normally the items if I can find them are gently used for 50% of the price of a new item 🙂

  • Latoya | Femme Frugality says:

    Number 1 is definitely non-negotiable for me. I once used those deals to finance a rug and when I realized how I had been duped and what I would have to pay if I didn’t pay it off in full before the promo period, I quickly paid it off and haven’t looked back. I won’t be doing that again!

  • Kalen @ MoneyMiniBlog says:

    Hey Cat,

    I love this! One thing I’ve actually kind of changed my mind on is buying new cars. Should you buy a new car? No, 99% of the time, but there are times when it makes sense.

    For one, I know many people who have just always wanted a new car. If they get to a point where they can pay cash, then buy the new car. Finances is not all about math. There is the emotional side that must be dealt with, but still responsibly.

    Another situation is whenever the deal is good enough. I know someone who just bought a 2015 on a 2016-2017 lot. The car was worth about $15k, and he bought it for $11k, because it had been on the lot for a long time. Six months later, his car is still worth more than he paid for it.

    Of course, those situations are few and far between, but I thought I’d share!


  • Bridget @ The Financial Gym says:

    I’m interested in everyone’s thoughts about leasing vs buying a car. If you get a decent deal on your monthly lease payment and the down payment is low, is this a cheaper option in the long run? Buying used makes me nervous because of all the horror stories I’ve heard about cars that seem great, and start to fall apart shortly after being purchased. Endless repairs and maintenance costs can add up and make this option more expensive!

    • Cat says:

      Well my thought is that leasing is a terrible idea — too many restrictions and then you don’t own the car at the end.

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